Hollywood's most versatile actress is at it again, fresh from playing tough CIA agent Maya in Zero Dark Thirty, Jessica Chastain is back in scary horror flick Mama. We spoke to her about horror films, ghostly encounters and why her grandmother is more of a raver than she is.
In Mama, Jessica plays Annabel, a punk rock guitarist who's missing her maternal urges. When her boyfriend's nieces are found after 5 years missing in a cabin in the wood, they come to live with her and she finds herself adopting motherly duties. The problem is, the two girls already have a mother figure, a creepy ghost called Mama that's been living with them in the woods and funnily enough she's not best pleased the girls have been taken from her. Cue one hell of a terrifying haunting.
Your character Annabel in Mama is quite different from Maya in Zero Dark Thirty-was that weird?
It is funny, this script came to me right after Tree Of Life came out and all of the scripts I was getting were roles consisting of being really supportive mothers and wives. Then I saw Mama and thought: This is the opposite of a supportive and graceful mother! This woman plays bass guitar in a punk band, she refuses to grow up. Then responsibility is thrust upon her and she's unhappy in the position she has been put in, but a maternal feeling is awakened in her that she thought she would never have in her life.
Mama is a character played by a Javier Botet - he's a pretty freaky looking guy!
Have you seen the movie Rec? He’s the last five minutes of that movie and is so scary. I think he’s 6'7" tall and quite thin. His arms are the same size as mine, and it is incredible what he can do with his body. In real life, he's is one of the sweetest, most beautiful people I have ever met. You meet him and he has the biggest smile on his face, he is so loving, and it was really wonderful to see him come out in all the makeup.
How did you make sure you appeared to be really scared?
I always get scared of the line between acting and real life. Sometimes an actor gets lost in the acting. I watched Shelley Duvall in The Shining, and I thought; "that is not acting". She was terrified. I do not know what was going on in that movie, but she's incredible in it. I did hear that there was a lot of stuff going on shooting it, and you see it. She looks like she is having a nervous breakdown. I will try to avoid any projects where acting will make a permanent mark on my psyche because I want to have a normal life. I do want to be a mom someday; I do want to have a family, so I have to figure out how to be responsible for my protection and my mental health. So when we were doing this scary movie, I thought, ‘How do I do this? How do I look scared without really messing up my head?’ I just concentrated on the genre. I ordered as many scary movies as I could get my hands on and constantly had them playing in the background, so even in my trailer there were always things playing.
Are you scared of anything?
I used to have really, really bad nightmares as a child because I used to watch horror films before I was ready to. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and being so scared that there would be something under my bed, or that there would be someone there. I would get scared and pull the covers over my face, and I would be sweating. I was always afraid to take the covers off because I was afraid that the second I would do it, there would be someone just sitting there staring at me, or a monster!
Your character Annabel doesn't want to grow up, are you like that too?
No, I don't think so because I am really excited about being a mother someday. When I bought an apartment, I was really excited about that.
I suppose you can't really run away from an apartment and kids!
Exactly. For me, I love family and love to root myself. I don't need to go out – I don't need to really go out and party. I am much closer to an 80-year-old woman than Annabel! My grandmother is more of a party animal that I am.
What do you do when you are not working?
Right now I am doing a play, The Heiress.
But isn't that work?
I know, I agree. This is the problem.
Do you have outside passions?
I play the ukulele, but I am kind of embarrassed to say that. I used to travel with the ukulele and play it in my hotel room. I love cooking; I love gardening, I love going to the theatre and to museums. I haven't been able to go to the theatre in four months because I am doing my play.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't. The logical answer is no. I had an experience when I was a child where I thought there was a ghost in my room. I was sleeping, and I felt like something had taken my head and put it on its lap and was stroking my hair. My neck muscles got tense, and it was the most bizarre thing, but I felt like something was touching me. I yelled to my mom, and she came in. I was trying to explain it, and they searched through the house. I haven't had anything like that since.
What is your favorite horror movie?
That is really tough. I cannot give you my absolute favorite, but I can tell you a couple of them. I love The Exorcist because I think that is super scary. The Shining, and The Ring.
What is the next project for you now?
It's not announced yet. I need to have a break!
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Mama is available on DVD and Blu-Ray now.